ESSEX — "The Stowaway Mouse," an illustrated children's book and song by local musician and maritime historian Daisy Nell, features what might be called a very "local angle."
The book, which was recently released, tells the story of a mouse in the shipbuilding town of Essex.
The tiny rodent sneaks onboard as a new schooner is launched at Harold Burnham's Boatyard.
Once the mouse leaves his home at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, he realizes that there is a lot more to going to sea than he thought — once the boat sails away.
The project was supported by local and state organizations, but driven by the energy and diverse talents of Nell.
It is the result of an annual folk music and songwriting project for the second grade, and is funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the local Parent Teacher Organization.
"Two classes worked to learn about traditional folk music and instruments, culminating in the crafting of two new songs based on these traditions," said Nell, a well-known musician and performer on Cape Ann.
The youngsters were learning their music while the new schooner "Ardelle" was being built by local craftsman Harold Burnham. That vessel is scheduled to be launched in the coming weeks.
As the boat took shape at the edge of the Essex River, the songs became a part of the children's experience of art and living history.
As Nell worked with the youngsters, she described the shipbuilding process and outlined the history that was unfolding in Essex.
Children contributed ideas for songs, and one of the two songs, "The Stowaway Mouse," took on a life of its own.
Nell decided to self-publish a book about the song and the experience, and recruited illustrator George Ulrich of Marblehead to provide the artwork.
The book is available at local stores, and at events where Nell and her husband perform as Daisy Nell and Capt. Stan. The book includes a CD of the song of that name.
Outlets at which it can be purchased include the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center and Russell Orchards in Ipswich.
Dyke Hendrickson can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.